How to get your kids to listen more and argue less!
Thank them for the behaviors you want more of and give less attention to the behaviors you don't want.
Kids want attention (well ... don't we all?).
When they sit quietly, play nicely together, hang up their jacket, don't make a mess ... do you thank them?
When they say "NO!" or argue, do you give them all your attention and try to reason with them, engage in the argument, try to find out what will make them do what you want, threaten, etc.
If behaving well doesn't get recognized, but being the class clown or refusing to cooperate brings everything to a halt and wins them all the attention, they will continue to show off, disrupt, argue, have tantrums.
Changing this pattern won't be easy, but if you are consistent, the time it takes to turn things around will be worth it.
Be prepared for their behavior to worsen at first.
When the behaviors that have always gotten them the attention they want no longer work, they will probably increase those behaviors.
Stand strong, be firm, you can do this, you can outlast them. :)
Where do you start?
Let's assume you are already:
-giving children options (red shoes or blue shoes?)
-helping them plan ahead by discussing the day's schedule and giving them plenty of notice before transitioning to the next thing
-breaking chores (clean your room) into manageable chunks (put all your books on the bookshelves, then put all your dirty clothes in the hamper, etc.)
-letting them help and not fixing or correcting everything they try to do by themselves
-not comparing one child to another (why can't you be more like your sister?!)
-not placing all the blame on older siblings for overreacting to - and wanting space from - younger sibs who pester them
-having consequences for the younger sibs who pester and push older sibs' buttons
If not, these things are where we want to start :)
When your child is doing something you want them to do, acknowledge that and thank them.
(It's easy, unfortunately, to overlook behaviors that don't actively grab our attention.)
"Susie, thank you for putting your dishes in the dishwasher."
"Enrique, thank you for hanging up your jacket."
"Marcia and Adam, I love how well you two are playing together."
When your child is doing something you don't want, address it, but with very little attention or emotion.
Have consequences already planned, and discuss them in advance with children, so you can react more calmly in the moment.
If you are out in public or at a friend's house and your child has a temper tantrum, take them home, now.
If your child refuses to do something or wants to argue, don't cajole or get sucked into a debate.
If they are rude and disrespectful, have appropriate consequences, and follow through; don't count to 3 or use "...next time ...".
Consequences only work if you actually apply them, not if you threaten to apply them.
If they apologize, thank them ... and still apply the consequences, because the apology acknowledges responsibility for the behavior and doesn't erase it.
If there are siblings or friends, praising one or more of them for behaving in ways you want, while ignoring the child who is behaving negatively, can also help redirect a misbehaving child. If little Angela is refusing to help clean up, and the other children are helping (Alex, what a great job you are doing of helping to clean up! Thank you! Isabelle, you are doing a great job of putting all the books on the shelf!), when she realizes not only are you NOT going to engage with her and focus on her to try to convince her to help, but the other kids are getting all the attention she wants, she is more likely to start helping ... and then needs to be acknowledged as soon as she does. (Angela, thank you for putting that puzzle back on the table.)
Will it be easy?
The longer a pattern has existed, the harder it is to change, but over time the decrease in tantrums, arguments, undone chores, etc makes for a happier home and happier children!